The Supreme Court has ruled that given the primacy of police in the criminal justice system, “organization justice” must be ensured in the department.
“The issues of posting, transfer and seniority must be settled within the department strictly in accordance with the Rules and only matters requiring legal interpretation may come up before the Courts,” a nine-page judgment authored by Justice Sayed Mansoor Ali Shah said while adjudicating the matter regarding the determination of seniority of a police officer holding the post of inspector in the Punjab Police under the Police Rules.
“Several junior officers approaching the courts for redressal of their grievance reflects poorly on the internal governance of the Police department when the elaborate Police Rules and the Police Order provide for such eventualities in detail,” the judgment added.
A division bench of the apex court led by Justice Shah noted that Inspector General of Police, Punjab (IGP) enjoyed administrative powers over the Police organisation under Article 10 of the Police Order, 2022.
The court noted that the top cop was under an obligation to exercise his legal powers within the organization to ensure that the police officers were dealt with in accordance with law within the statutory timelines.
“In case there is any unexplained delay in following the timeline the concerned Police Officers be held accountable and any action taken or penalty imposed upon them be duly reflected in their performance evaluation reports,” the judgment said.
“The IGP may also consider constituting a standing committee headed by an Additional Inspector General of Police or any appropriate officer to regularly address the concerns of junior police officers with respect to their inter se seniority so that a police officer feels empowered that there is organizational justice in his organization. This will lead to developing a more robust, efficient and strong police force in the country,” it added.
“We are sanguine that in future the Police department will take charge of its internal governance strictly in accordance with law and will restore a Rule-based approach in addressing the grievances of the police officers so that courts are not unduly burdened.”
The court noted that organizational justice was necessary for the police officers to perform their duties with complete commitment, dedication and fidelity and that they must perceive that the institution was fair and just towards them.
"Police officers who have such perceptions of fairness would demonstrate less cynicism towards the job and are also likely to have a more amiable attitude towards the public."
"Uncertainty in the promotion structure and delay in promotions weakens such perceptions of serving police officers, resulting in inefficiency, likelihood of misconduct and low morale, thereby, also adversely impacting the trust of the public in the police Therefore, for an efficient and effective police force, it is necessary to ensure the provision of organizational justice in the police as an institution, especially with regards to career progression and promotion. As such, there must be no ambiguity in the promotion structure and any grievance with regards to career progression/promotion must be redressed expeditiously under the law."
The judgment said that organizational justice stood firmly on the constitutional values and fundamental rights ensured to any person under the Constitution.
It further said that the constitutional principle of social and economic justice read with due process and right to dignity, non-discrimination and right to a carry out a lawful profession and the right to livelihood were basic ingredients of organizational justice.
The court noted that the importance of organizational justice cannot be undermined.
“It focuses on how employees judge the behavior of the organization and how this behavior is related to employees’ attitudes and behaviors regarding the organization. The employees are sensitive to decisions made on a day-to-day basis by their employers, both on the small and large scale, and will judge these decisions as unfair or fair,” the judgment said.
“Decisions judged as unfair, lead to workplace deviance. Employees also believe procedures are fair when they are consistent, accurate, ethical, and lack bias,” it added.
“Organizational justice is concerned with all matters of workplace behaviour, from treatment by superiors to pay, access to training and gender equality. Ensuring organizational justice should be a priority for any organization – it can reduce the incidence of workplace deviance, absence, disengagement and counterproductive workplace behaviours and also encourage positive attributes like trust and progressive communication.”
The court noted that it was “best” if the Police force was allowed to be regulated by its statutory framework i.e. the Police Order, 2002 and the Police Rules which provided a complete code of internal governance.
“Disputes, if any, amongst the police officers must first be resolved by the Inspector General of Police or his representatives. Only in case of any legal interpretation or blatant abuse of the process provided under the Police Order or Rules should the courts interfere in the working of the Police force so that the force can maintain its functioning, autonomy, independence and efficiency which is essential for Police which is charged with the onerous responsibility of maintaining law and order and with the onerous obligation to protect the life and property of the citizens of this country. More than any other organization, it is imperative that the Police must function as a rule based organization which is fully autonomous and independent in regulating its internal governance."
“Strong and smart Police force requires organizational justice firmly entrenched in the institution so that its officers are assured that they work for an institution that firmly stands for rules, fairness, transparency and efficiency. This upholds the morale of the police officers, especially junior police officers who are required to undertake dangerous and strenuous assignments on a daily basis and also uplifts the institution by making it more vibrant and progressive.”
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